"Anita Gillette has experienced a family tragedy," read an official production statement, "and it has been understandably difficult to determine when she might return to the company of The Oldest Profession. Priscilla Lopez has graciously agreed to join the production so that performances of the play can resume as soon as possible. The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Signature Theatre Company are with Anita Gillette during this very difficult time."
The production is the season opener for the Signature Theatre Company at the Peter Norton Space on West 42nd Street.
Lopez is known for such productions as A Chorus Line, Anna in the Tropics, A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine (Tony Award) and newyorkers.
The ladies of the evening in The Oldest Profession made their first appearance Aug. 21. The play is the first work in a season dedicated to the works of Vogel, best known for How I Learned to Drive. The five prostitutes of the play — a work seen around the world, but not yet in New York City — are played by five mature, indelible actresses in Manhattan: Marylouise Burke, Anita Gillette, Carlin Glynn, Katherine Helmond and Joyce Van Patten. David Esbjornson directs.
The work is about ladies faced with a "diminishing clientele, increased competition for their niche market, and aching joints" as Ronald Reagan enters the White House.
"With wit, compassion and humor, they struggle to find and learn new tricks as they fight to stay in the Life," according to the Signature.
The ladies of the evening are all character actresses over the age of 50 (most over 60), with a wide range of theatre, film and TV experience. Gillette was a fresh-faced ingenue of '60s musicals, including All American and Mr. President, who starred in Broadway's Chapter Two in middle-age. Helmond gained wide fame as voluptuous and dim Jessica Tate on TV's "Soap." Glynn starred as Miss Mona in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (and won the Tony Award for it) on Broadway and as Lily Dale in Horton Foote's The Man From Atlanta for Signature. Burke starred in Broadway's recent Into the Woods (as Jack's Mother) and in Manhattan Theatre Club's Kimberly Akimbo and Fuddy Meers. Van Patten is known for TV appearances and for Broadway's Rumors, Jake's Women, Brighton Beach Memoirs and more.
Designers are Narelle Sissons (set), Elizabeth Hope Clancy (costumes), James Vermeulen (lights) and Darron L. West (sound).
Kate Loewald is guest artistic director for the 2004-05 Signature season while founding artistic director James Houghton takes a sabbatical. Vogel's The Baltimore Waltz and the New York premiere of Hot 'n' Throbbing are also on the season's slate.
The Peter Norton Space is at 555 W. 42nd Street (between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues). The performance schedule for The Oldest Profession is Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 8 PM, with matinees on Saturday and Sundays at 3 PM. For additional information, visit www.signaturetheatre.org or call (212) 244-PLAY.